Railroads began to transform the American landscape as early as the 1830s. By 1850, cities were changing to accommodate the railroad industry, markets were expanding, and fortunes were being made by “men of commerce.” Railroads also fired the imaginations of young people who dreamed of escape and adventure, and of the thousands who longed for a new life beyond the western horizon.
For “All Aboard:” Riding the Rails in New England and Beyond 1830s to 1950s, the curators have selected a range of maps that display the growth of railroads in Maine and New England, and their role in both the expansion of commerce and the establishment of tourism as a major component of the New England economy.
Finally, even as the role of railroads in American life began to decline, its place in the American imagination only grew. In our display of railroad-themed games we see a nostalgia for the railroad past, and an eager anticipation of its “streamlined” future.
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.
All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.